Friday, May 1, 2009

Hank's Resort

Thanks so much to everyone for cheering me up yesterday! It really meant a lot to me.

Here is an assignment (story) I wrote for the creative writing class as part of my cognitive therapy. It's about staying at a lakeside resort as a child.

My sister Cathy at Hank's Resort in the 50's

Hank with Cathy in front of the "Liar's Cage" (fish cleaning house)


“Dad, can I have a nickel for a bottle of pop?” He must have heard that in his sleep like a skip in a record after two weeks vacation with four “sugar-craving” kids. Ah, vacation. The only time of year we got unlimited pop and candy. We looked forward to it from the time we got home the previous year to the time we left again. Hank’s Resort in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. The smell of pine trees and sometimes, dead fish. A kid’s paradise not only for us but for other friends and family. We took over the resort. There were four rustic white cabins up the sandy hill from the lake. Yellowed pine siding on all the walls with dark brown knots that were shaped like whatever your imagination could muster. Bedroom walls, shorter than the pitched roof, provided for an aerial circus act of stuffed animals and Barbies, sans the safety net. Speckled green linoleum lined the sand covered floor. Springs stretching across the windows, kept the green and white checked curtains in place as the lake breezes caressed the cabin.
This was the 50's. Before indoor plumbing was installed. We would hurry out to a small outbuilding between the dirt driveway and the swamp behind the cabins. “Don’t go near the swamp” dad warned, that crease appearing between his eyebrows. “That’s quicksand. It’ll pull you in and we’ll never find you.” And so that’s the way it was, most of my childhood, filled with well-meaning but scary warnings. Something I didn’t pass on to the next generation and they are more adventurous than I.
Green wooden boats with “Hank’s” on the bow rocked at the docks, anchors swaying. Our three and a half horse Sears powered it across the lake. Each of us had our own reasons to enjoy the get-a-way. For the dad's, fishing, morning and night was what they enjoyed most.. For the mom's it was relaxing in the chaise lounges looking out over the lake. Our favorite activity of all was swimming, followed by eating candy. If we'd had our way, we would have suffered from the dreaded “lake water pruning” , a wrinkled mass of puckered skin from too much exposure to lake water. As soon as that bright orb in the sky peeked over the tall pine trees, we were begging to go in the water. Swimsuits barely dry from the day before, goosebumps the size of bubble wrap, Coppertone slathered on our skinny bodies and we were ready to swim with the minnows. Red, blue, yellow & green plastic buckets, with shovels and toy boats, all carried down to the water. Mom bringing the over sized beach towels and her Reader's Digest Condensed book. The screaming would start the minute we stepped in the cold lake water but the energy we created warmed us. Playing with boats, throwing wet sand and floating on tire inner tubes took up much of our time. Up and down the red and silver slide, burning our delicate legs, we knew it was getting close to lunchtime. Time to get out of the water and head to the cabin. The smell of crumbs burning in the toaster woke our stomachs to the hunger we'd been ignoring. Smooth, creamy peanut butter spread on toast, a glass of milk and a cookie for dessert.
A bit of knowledge, what every mom knows, “It takes an hour to digest your food.” Another bit of information “you'll get cramps and drown if you don't wait an hour after you eat”. So we have to kill an hour. The longest hour of the day. It's nap time for the youngest and “stay out of Mom's hair” time for us. Dad didn't fish during the hottest part of the day, so we could hit him up for a nickel as he sat by the beach drinking a Hamm's with the other men.
Nickel in hand, we would run to the resort office which was attached to Hank's home. The little bell rang as we entered and Gusta, his wife, would come out to see what we needed. She was a sweet lady, gray hair with braids pinned on top of her head and a voice like a whisper in the wind. She felt like a grandma to me. Affection didn't run in our family so I was drawn like a dryer sheet to rayon when someone showed they cared.
There it was. “Drink Coca-Cola, In Bottles”, the pop machine said. “Ice cold” it enticed. Red with a glass door on the front so you could see the caps. Coca-Cola, Bubble-Up, Hire's Root Beer, Nehi Grape and my favorite, Orange Crush. Gusta stood to one side, always patient as we made our selections.
Decisions made, off we would go, sipping our pop and making train whistle noises when the bottle was empty. Back to the warm,sunlit beach to build sandcastles and wait for the hour to end.
I have relived these moments many times throughout the years as a child myself and again as a parent, taking my children to the same lake. I expect that someday my grandchildren will be swimming in that lake too. “Can I have a dollar for some pop?” they'll ask and the tradition will continue.

Cousin Carol, me, Cathy & friend Nancy

Cousin Ken & friend David

Brother's Bill & Bob in the later years.


The cottage by the Cranelake said...

Love Your story! gave me memorie flashbacks :-) The cold water when jumping in to the freezing lake :-) The warnings, but we only had to wait half an hour :-) But also the candy lady at home that sounds a lot like her in Your story.
Thanks for sharing it with us!

Anonymous said...

What a WONDERFUL STORY!! I didn't want it to end. I wanted to find out what happeded at dinner and after dinner and bedtime! You have a great gift for words! I really enjoyed your homework!!!...debbie

Barb and Steve said...

Thanks! So glad it help you remember similar experiences Christer.
Debbie...thanks. I'll keep writing and maybe you'll find out :-)